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COVID-19: Austria imposes border restrictions with Italy over coronavirus, banning outdoor events with more than 500 people

With Italy appearing to be the worst hit by the COVID-19 in Europe, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on Tuesday said Austria was restricting travel to and fro the country to curb the further spread of the deadly virus.

Speaking to reporters in Vienna, Kurz said he was putting in place "an entry ban for people from Italy to Austria, unless they have a doctor's certificate", adding that Austrians in neighbouring Italy will be allowed to return as long as they agree to a two-week home quarantine.

Austria's Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said trains and flights from Italy to Austria would be stopped. Border controls will be put in place, he added, only allowing those who have a doctor's certificate to enter.

An exception is cargo transport, which can continue, but health checks will be put in place, he said.

Austria is also banning outdoor events with more than 500 people and indoor events with more than 100 people, he said.

Universities and other higher education institutions will halt classes from Monday. So far the Alpine EU member of more than eight million people has had 158 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and no deaths.

Austria Chancellor said the number was still very low but the disease was deadly.

The two European nations share a border north of Italy's South Tyrol region but on Tuesday, South Tyrol, in common with the rest of Italy, closed all cultural centres and restricted access to bars and cafes to daytime hours.

Italy's nationwide lockdown limits travel to those with "proven work requirements or situations of necessity". 

All sporting events have been suspended, and schools and universities have been shut until 3 April. Employees have been urged either to work from home or take annual leave.

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